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Classical Learning Meets Web 2.0

November 26, 2009 1 comment

According to Wikipedia, “The Socratic Method (or Method of Elenchus or Socratic Debate), named after the Classical Greek philosopherSocrates, is a form of inquiry and debate between individuals with opposing viewpoints based on asking and answering questions to stimulate rational thinking and to illuminate ideas.”

When using this classical method of teaching, the student takes initiative to drive the conversation to stimulate divergent thoughts on various topics. In my classrooms, I often use the Socratic Method to create a safe forum for students to bring out their ideas through guided questioning. When I present an idea or question, I typically stay out of the conversation and simply take notes without expressing any approval or disapproval. Often when teachers intervene in conversation, the student ends up following the thoughts of the teacher authority (soldier mentality). One of the natural outcomes of the Socratic Method is to encourage risk taking, critical thinking, and problem solving. All skills in developing leaders, not soldiers (the paper pushing worksheet teacher). The students are situated in a circle with me deliberately sitting outside it. I simply state my thought or question, and then the students take over. Obviously, it requires scaffolding and modeling at first, but when the students understand the Socratic process, the conversations go beyond any textbook, video or worksheet on the same topic. I have always preached the Apple motto of “Think Different,” and have based most of my teaching with that in mind.

Then the idea came to me that fit naturally together, the marriage between classical learning of Socrates and the collaborative real time environment of web 2.0. Hence, my name Socratech on Twitter. I began thinking how my traditional classroom setup using the Socratic Method can be integrated using educational technologies. A flurry of ideas came to me when thinking how web 2.0 is the 21st century version of the Socratic Method, where we encourage risk taking, divergent ideas, and an open forum to express our thoughts. Now I just needed to implement a lesson with middle school students that exemplifies the almost eerie similarities between Socrates and web 2.0.

One such example that has successfully remixed the Socratic Method with web 2.0 is when I hold virtual Socratic Seminars in Edmodo. Edmodo is a private social communication platform where I allow my students to converse on various topics guided by me or another student. The beauty of Edmodo is that the conversation provides real time threading with multimedia capabilities to enhance the experience. I held a Socratic Seminar using the Did You Know YouTube video. I guided the conversation by asking questions related to video that stimulated debate and other questions about technology and the Internet. The ideas expressed was beyond any teacher lead discussion on the same subject.

Its no wonder why History was my favorite subject in school. Now it is making sense…

*It is important to note that academic language is strictly enforced in any online or oral Socratic Seminar to mirror the scholarly language of classical Greece. I tell my students to use starter sentences such as “I agree” or “contrary” backing it up with always a support (because) statement.

For more information on the Socratech Seminar Method of learning, feel free to contact me.

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The End of Accelerated Reader

November 23, 2009 2 comments

It was over six months ago when an idea came to me while shopping for air filters at Home Depot; how can we evolve the Accelerated Reader idea into a web 2.0 environment? I write this in hopes Accelerated Reader decides to move to this environment. Otherwise, I have the alternative solution to the reading quiz phenomenon. For those who are not familiar with Accelerated Reader, it essentially is an independent reading program where students read books and take quizzes based on reading levels. It helps teachers monitor independent reading where students earn points for successfully taking quizzes on the books they read.

With web 2.0 technologies now readily available, I have come up with a free solution for those schools unable to afford the Accelerated Reader software. I came across a free quiz making program called MyStudiyo and I finally created my first quiz on it. I remember being on the phone with my good friend Gilbert, telling him what if there was a crowd sourcing solution to creating quizzes of children’s literature. Now it is still a raw solution and doesn’t provide the full analysis of an Accelerated Reader, however, the potential is there for a community of teachers who contribute to quizzes on MyStudiyo. I can envision an “Accelerated Reader” like community of quizzes on this site with ratings of the best quizzes. Now, if MyStudiyo can create “Accelerated Reader” like metrics, students can login to this website and take quizzes for free. I can see the traffic exponentially grow for this website if they could add the features. If MyStudiyo is reading this blog, feel free to contact me about this novel idea.

Best yet, you can embed your quizzes to private communication platforms such as Edmodo. Here is an example of my embedded quiz on Edmodo. As powerful as Accelerated Reader has become in the education world, I can see a web 2.0 version becoming bigger because we are relying on the power of the teacher population instead of so-called “experts” who create these AR quizzes.

I write this giving away my idea that I proposed months ago, but I have no capacity to create such a website. I just hope I get mentioned for the company who does make this happen. “Accelerated Reader 2.0”

Dreaming Big…

November 22, 2009 Leave a comment

I often write to express my thoughts and reflect on my profession, hoping to share and collaborate with colleagues and peers. Today, I write in hopes to be heard. Today, I have been inspired to finally write this grand idea that has been brewing for quite awhile. It is in fact “dreaming big…”

I have been in the educational technology field for a few years now and have fully embraced the concept of web 2.0 as the 21st century way of learning. In the past three years, I have built a technology program at our school that embodies collaboration, problem solving skills and innovation. From my engineering class to our teacher professional development program (TEKA), our school has embraced 21st century learning. This year has been particularly successful as we have moved to a Google Apps environment for our collaboration efforts. The real time collaborative environment allows staff members to communicate more effectively and share knowledge to truly create a personal learning network (PLN). Our ever growing internal wiki has expanded ten fold with information and lessons tailored for our environment. I can safely say we are an empowered group of learners who understands self-directed learning in a collaborative environment.

With much success at our school, I have been inspired to see how this PLN can grow to our bigger charter network. Upon reflection, I couldn’t think of a better way to promote the web 2.0 concept than at our annual charter school conference. Having been inspired by collaborative efforts at other conferences, I thought using web 2.0 tools at our annual conference would be a game-changing idea.

Our annual charter conference brings together the brilliant minds and passionate educators from all over the nation. For the past three years, I have come away inspired and motivated to teach after our week of collaboration. However, I have come to the realization that despite the inspiration that comes from the conference, the knowledge and collaboration efforts that extend after the conference has been comparatively minute. I also come to realization that during the conference, the chances of more collaboration and instant reflections may not be fully materialized without using technology to drive the conversation.

Dreaming Big…

I remember going to a conference over a year ago where I was first introduced to Twitter and how it was used at the conference at that point was beyond my scope. However, having used Twitter actively now for the past three months, I finally put together the purpose of using Twitter at that conference and the potential impact it can have on information sharing. The concepts of web 2.0 has been around for many years now and trying to describe it here is not going to turn any heads.

Instead, I want to connect web 2.0 with our annual charter conference. I want to dream someday that our conference will utilize web 2.0 tools such as Twitter to spark conversations with true real time collaboration. I can envision being at one of the sessions and “tweeting” my reflections on the speaker and having another teacher responding to my thoughts in real time. I also see  others learning from each other through the #conversations and archiving people’s topics and links. Moreover, having several active television monitors spread across the conference for people to learn and be in the “know” of what is going on at the conference. Active live “tweets” will take the conference into a whole new level of real time reflections, surveys, and polls. Using other web 2.0 tools such as wikis to archive and Poll Everywhere to get instant feedback will bring and keep new ideas into fruition. The best part of Twitter is that mobile technologies allow the individual to post their thoughts instantly through Internet ready phones or texting capabilities.

I dream of having having a booth (Adelante Cafe) with my students teaching teachers how to use web 2.0 technologies such as Twitter and Edmodo at the conference. It would be a sight to see my students helping the conference participants logging on Twitter and learning how to RT and create #edchats about our #kss10 conference. It would be a beautiful thing to see the power of the crowd produce content rather than just listening to content throughout the conference. In my humble opinion, it will greatly enhance the experience of the week as all teachers and staff members will feel actively involved, as they share out their reflections, ideas, and information in real time.

I write this idea inspired by one of our program’s important mottos of “Dreaming Big…”

PowerTyping Assessment Model

November 15, 2009 Leave a comment

Although it may seem archaic and rudimentary to talk about typing assessments, I have found this method of assessments as fundamental in building a foundation for digital literacy. Until touch screen keyboards become commonplace, incorporating an authentic way of assessing typing skills continues to be a crucial component in any computer curriculum. There is no better way to start developing a model for growth in typing skills than in K-6 curriculum. I compare it to the importance of cursive writing standards in the third grade. As obsolete as it has become with the advent of keyboards, my days learning cursive writing was the foundation to my work. One can argue that simply incorporating project-based learning using technology will naturally make one better on the keyboard, however, a consistent structured keyboarding program in a K-6 curriculum will serve beneficial in the long run. Below is my method of assessing keyboarding skills using a free web program called PowerTyping.

Benchmark 1: Students will learn to type lessons 1-13 on PowerTyping by focusing on accuracy. Students will be measured on how many errors are made rather than how quickly one types. This alleviates the pressure for time and allows the students to get comfortable with the keyboard. Great for the beginning learner who has never used a keyboard. In order for a student to pass each lesson, they must get 0 errors when completing the whole lesson.

Benchmark 2: Students will begin learning to type with accuracy and speed. I have found the 20wpm benchmark to be a good standard for students beginning to type with speed. It is a speed that is attainable without making it too simple. Students must type 20wpm with 0 errors to pass each level until lesson 1-13 are complete (1-3 lines worth). Teachers can use either the review or the actual lesson for each level. I also include a stipulation for students who type quickly with many errors. I tell my students that every error will get subtracted from their wpm score.

Benchmark 3: Students will learn to type consistently with accuracy and speed. This last benchmark is reserved for students comfortable on the keyboard and ready to tackle higher standards of typing. This benchmark requires students to reach 30 wpm 0 error scores over the length of the entire lesson. It requires consistent typing capabilities and tests students determination to concentrate over a longer period of time.

Notes: Teachers can keep a growth chart via spreadsheet for every benchmark. I compare it to keeping multiplication growth charts for students learning their times tables.

Foreign Languages, Food & Podcasting

November 12, 2009 Leave a comment

In effort to keep the tradition of foreign languages in Language Academy, my morning mixed group of 6th-8th graders  created a Food Podcast of their favorite foods. The project required them to find an audio translator on the Internet of their foreign language of choice. Some students used Babylon and others used Forvo for language translation. Then they created slides on PowerPoint of their favorite foods. Using GarageBand, they put together the slides and created a podcast translating the food into their foreign language. It was a multitasking lesson that required students to use various software to produce a foreign language project. Students choose languages ranging from Tagalog, to Swahili, to Arabic.

Choose Your Own Adventure 2.0

November 8, 2009 Leave a comment

Do you remember the Choose Your Own Adventure series when you were in school? It was one of my favorite genre of books to read because you were given choices in the book to follow. It was as interactive as you could get with text back in the day. With the availability of interactive technologies today, I was wondering how we could bring back these beloved novels with our digital youth. And then came the idea of using interactive slides to create a choose your own adventure story. Using any slideshow software such as PowerPoint or Keynote, students can create their very own interactive novel using buttons that link your story to a new slide. Students can create multiple paths for alternate endings and scenarios in the novel. This idea has rejuvenated my creative brain cells. What if I create a CYOA2.0 website where students post their interactive stories? I said it first here folks…but knowing my luck somebody created this already before this date.

Copyright 2009 by Socratech Seminars.

Microblogging Dilemma

November 4, 2009 Leave a comment

Ever since I have started to micro blog on Twitter, Facebook, and other web 2.0 apps, I have slowly lost my patience for questionnaires, surveys requesting paragraphs, and grants asking for thoughtful responses. Recently, I have been asked to fill out some applications, recommendations, and surveys for various institutions, and writer’s block is definitely in action. Maybe it is the pen, but even online questionnaires are daunting and I am almost hesitant to fill it out. Has the fast-paced real-time web 2.0 world poisoned my desire for the long-winded answers? In fact, I despise  listening to my voicemail, and reading long emails now. Maybe this blog entry is too long? I wonder if my students feel the same way? Does everything have to be in bullet form? Whatever the reason, it is alarming how quickly I have changed because of 21st century technologies.

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